US prez considering political ally as ambassador to India



US President Joe Biden is considering Los Angeles mayor and a former co-chair of his presidential campaign Eric Garcetti as ambassador to India, according to a report.

Garcetti, 50, completes two terms as LA mayor in 2022 and cannot seek a third. He had once mulled a presidential run himself and then opted out.

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Axios news publication reported the possibility of Garcetti being sent to India, citing people familiar with the matter.

Biden is expected to start rolling out his nominees for ambassadorships later this month. Presidents tend to pick political and campaign donors and allies, along with career foreign service officers. Ken Juster, who was the last US ambassador to India, was a political appointee for instance.

Among other names that have figured in the speculation is former Congressman Joe Crowley, a one-time star of the Democratic party with a lock on the speakership of the House of Representative, to succeed Nancy Pelosi. But he was unexpectedly defeated in 2018 by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a rising star.

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Garcetti was co-chair of the Biden campaign, and he was also part of the committee that Biden had appointed to look for his running mate. After the election, Garcetti was named one of the co-chairs of the inauguration committee. He was widely expected to get a cabinet berth and reports have suggested he was being considered for secretary housing.

Like all host countries, India would like a US ambassador to be someone with an open line of communications with the White House, which Garcetti is likely to have, according to people familiar with these matters. It’s just more efficient and less time-consuming to not having to go through the usual state department bureaucracy, said someone familiar with these conversations, specially at sensitive times.

Biden’s ambassadorial nominee for India will be one of the more high-profile announcements for the administration given the focus the US president has brought on the ties with India., bilaterally and as part of the Quad with Japan and Australia.

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President Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have spoken four time already in 100 days since the American leader took office. And, they have met virtually as part of the Quad and the summit of 40 world leaders that Biden hosted in April.

Last weekend, President Biden announced an assistance package of $100 million containing oxygen and oxygen supplies, personal protective equipment, rapid diagnostic tests, therapeutics such as remdesivir.

Five planeloads of these supplies have already reached India, as the White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday, summing up the aid thus far. A sixth flight carrying supplies will reach on Wednesday. The United States has also diverted its supplies of raw material for AstraZeneca vaccine to India.

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After his BA and MA from Columbia University, Garcetti went to Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and went on to the London School of Economics. His website as LA mayor says he is also a jazz pianist and photographer.



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